THE Department of Agriculture (DA) commissioned on May 22, its first fully-operational Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) in Barangay Manubuan, Matalam, North Cotabato, which could irrigate as much as 40 hectares with a cost of only P6.4 million.

A total of 116 more units are undergoing construction in other parts of the country funded by DA locally and implemented by the different regional offices.

The Manubuan, Matalam SPIS, which was completed in a record time of only 60 days, officially becomes the first Solar-Powered Irrigation System to be commissioned by the DA after a proto-type was inaugurated by President Rodyrigo Duterte in M'lang, North Cotabato in March last year.

Constructed by RU Foundry of Bacolod City, the Manubuan, Matalam-SPIS draws water from a creek beside the former rain-fed rice farms using a 15-horsepower Lorentz surface pump from Germany.

Water is then pumped up to a reservoir capable of holding 350-cubic meters of water and then distributed to the rice fields using pipes with valve heads which are opened to irrigate the fields.

The system could fully irrigate four hectares in one day and could theoretically cover a 60-hectare area in 15 days.

The existing pipe-layout of the Manubuan, Matalam SPIS, however, only covers 40 hectares.

Manubuan Small Water Irrigation System Association (SWISA) President Tranquilino Pulanco said the operation of the SPIS would now allow them to plant at least twice a year.

"Noong araw talagan umaasa lang kami sa ulan para makapagtanim. Ngayon maski tatlong beses isang taon puede na kami magtanim," Pulanco said, a retired school teacher who also served as vice mayor of Matalam for many years.

The other SPIS undergoing construction will also be commissioned this year with over 100 more units funded for bidding included in the 2018 budget of the DA.

At an average area of 40 hectares, the 117 SPIS set to be completed this year will irrigate an estimated 4,680 hectares this year alone. (PR)